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Putting the Nye into Nye Saunders…

Updated: Mar 3, 2020

There is a wealth of history that sits behind the name Nye Saunders. As an architectural practice we have been in existence for many years, in fact the original founders set up their practices post war and merged to form Nye Saunders in the 1970’s.

Today we are looking back over the impressive career of David Evelyn Nye, one of the original founders, born in 1906. He was best known as a cinema & ecclesiastical architect, designing many of the picture houses in the 1930s for the Shipman and King cinema circuit and a number of new churches.

In 1930 he was awarded the first scholarship by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, where he learned about the restoration of ancient buildings. In 1931 he set up his own practice, initially working as honorary architect to the Essex Rural Community Council in Maldon, Essex. He was responsible for the 1932 restoration work on Thomas Plume's Library, and it was in Maldon that he secured his first cinema project, designing the Embassy Cinema for the Shipman & King cinema circuit, which was erected on Maldon High Street in 1936.

He continued his association with Shipman & King for another 9 years, designing over 40 cinemas in total, including the renowned cinema The Rex in Berkhamsted. The Rex was an Art Deco picture house designed in 1937 with a nautical theme, featuring decorations of waves, shells and portholes. It was eventually turned into a bingo hall and then closed in 1988. The building was Grade II listed by English Heritage preserving it from demolition by property developers, and following the success of a local campaign to restore it, The Rex re-opened as an independent cinema in 2004.

During World War II he served in the Royal Navy and after the war continued his work as an architect, specialising in church building and restoration. He designed the church of St Faith's Church, Dulwich in the mid-1950s, and was appointed Architect to the Diocese of Southwark and Architect and Surveyor to Guildford Cathedral. His practice also carried out restoration work for the National Trust and was responsible for the reconstruction of All Hallows, London Wall after wartime bombing and the new Pewterers' Hall in Oat Lane in the City in 1960.

David Nye designed a number of distinctive timber framed churches utilising glulam timber beam technology and locally to Surrey notable are the Church of the Good Shepherd, Pyrford; St. Peter’s Stoke, Guildford; St. Alban’s, Wood Street Village and St. Mark’s, Langley Vale, Epsom. He was also the chairman of SPAB’s Technical panel for several years.

In 1971 David Evelyn Nye & Partners merged with A.E.F. Saunders and Associates to form Nye Saunders based in Surrey. Our current office is located in the town centre of Godalming and we are proud to continue to specialise in church and historic building conservation work, alongside our residential, commercial and educational architecture projects.

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